In Boston, a move toward digital ticketing

Yankees sign Future NL Closer™ Manny Delcarmen
The Obligatory Casey Kotchman Post

I’d be hard-pressed to tell you the last time I had a real ticket for a Yankee game. It might have been toward the end of 2010 when a friend of mine scored a pair in a corporate giveaway, and before that, who knows? The tickets I get through StubHub are all of the digital variety, and the few I’ve ordered straight from the source come as PDF files as well.

These 21st Century e-tickets, though, bring with them a decidedly 20th Century problem: You need a printer. Usually, when I’m going to a game with some friends, we spend the afternoon figuring out who has access to a printer and who’s printing which ticket. These are some serious First World problems, I know, but it’s something technological innovation should have figured out by now.

Up in Boston, the Red Sox seemingly have but with some twists. For Upper Bleacher seats at Fenway, the Sox will now be offering digital tickets. Instead of scrambling to find a printer with ink cartridges, the Sox are going to allow entry via the swipe of the credit card that originally was used to purchase the tickets. No more printing — and no more selling these seats on the secondary market.

“Over the past 10 years, we have intentionally held the price of the Upper Bleacher seating category at $12 per seat in order to provide family-friendly pricing options for Red Sox fans,” Red Sox SVP/Ticketing Ron Bumgarner explained. “The downside of keeping these low price points is that these tickets sometimes end up on the secondary ticketing market at significantly marked up prices. By requiring the primary purchaser of the tickets to attend the game through this Digital Ticketing Initiative, our hope is to gradually eliminate those purchasing these specific tickets solely for the purpose of resale, and instead get these tickets into the hands of fans and families all over New England.”

On the one hand, this move adds a level of convenience to purchasing tickets. On the other, it may skirt scalping and resale laws by limiting what one who purchases a ticket is allowed to do with the ticket. They don’t, however, plan on offering these types of tickets for every game. Certainly, the Red Sox should be applauded for trying to keep seat prices at a reasonable level, and I would imagine more teams will follow suit if this effort is successful.

Ultimately, Major League Baseball should be eying a move toward digital ticketing that some airlines are using. Most people carry around Internet-enabled phones that can display scannable bar codes. With such technology in place, we’ll never need a ticket — printed or otherwise — again. We’re not there yet though.

Yankees sign Future NL Closer™ Manny Delcarmen
The Obligatory Casey Kotchman Post
  • Beamish

    The re-sellers will just use a Visa Gift Card to buy groups of 2 or 4 tickets and then sell the gift card for the appropriate mark-up.

    This will slow them down but it will not stop them.

  • hogsmog

    Don’t know about that…

    “Hey, I’m some dirty guy standing in front of Fenway. Give me $50 for this gift card with no money on it!”

    You’re telling me you’d bite?

    • hogsmog

      In response to Beamish, oops.

  • Matt DiBari

    I had tickets to the first game of the double header where the Yankees clinched this year. I had a friend that was going to meet me for the second game, so he bought them on stubhub, but was unable to print them out. I was already in Manhattan when he emailed me the pdf files, so I assumed I’d have to spend the time between games wandering the South Bronx for a Kinkos or something.

    The Yankee ticket office actually took my phone (presumably) emailed the files to their computer and printed the tickets out for me. I thought that was pretty awesome.

  • Matt DiBari

    Back to what the Sox are doing, what happens if, theoretically, my uncle buys me these tickets for my birthday with no intention of going to the game with me? Or if my friend gets called into work and doesn’t want to see the tickets go to waste, so he gives them to me? Does he have to give me his credit card?

    It seems very shortsighted to assume that people buying tickets are either attending or scalping. There’s a lot of middle ground.

    • Steve (different one)

      Exactly. This strikes me as a huge pain in the ass for many, perfectly legitimate, non-scalping situations.

      How many times have you bought tickets in advance and you can’t use them, so you resell them or even give them away? There is a difference between reselling for face or below, and scalping. This solution allows no distinction for these scenarios.

    • FanFreedomProject

      Matt – this is exactly right, and one of the downsides of paperless/restrictive ticketing schemes. It also fails to account for the fact that people get sick, have work commitments, lose credit cards, are victims of identity theft, etc.

      There are lots of perfectly valid reasons why a fan might need to give away or sell a ticket, and this solution treats all fans like criminals. When we buy the tickets, we own them. And it’s our right to choose how we use them.

      If you or anyone else has problems with these tickets, we’d love to hear your story.

    • Krull

      Keep in mind this is a limited number of bleacher seat tickets. If you want the ability to give away or sell your tickets get seats in another part of the park. Right now it is usually impossible to get tickets to Sox games that are not from the secondary market unless you purchase your tickets really early — games sell out very quickly. The scalper markups are ridiculous, with standing room only seats often $30-50. Moreover, I’ve been told that the big scalpers / resellers have agreements not to cut prices on their tickets for a game, even if they aren’t selling. The result is plenty of available tickets for many games, but no reduction in price.

      This seems like a good move by the Sox to increase availability for fans. Given that the tickets are only $12 if you have to miss a game you aren’t out a ton of money…

  • Andy

    Hey guys:

    I work out in Denver and for Avalanche and Nuggets (and Rapids) games they have a service called Really interesting technology where they print your tickets at the doors. It also provides its own secondary market in which you can buy/sell or even just transfer tickets to another user’s account. Really simple and really easy once people get over the fear of not having a physical ticket. Very good for meeting someone there, or if someone else has an emergency and needs to show up late, just transfer them their ticket. Just so ya know, the technology is already in use out here and works wonderfully.


  • RetroRob

    Are resellers bad? I’ve used them more in recent years because the Yankees have effectively priced me out of the season packages. They’ve increased prices, required more tickets be purchased for these packages, or they’ve pushed the “cheaper” ones out to the less desirable areas.

    By going to a ticker reseller, I pay more for a single game, but I pay less over the course of the season, and I only buy tickets to games I wish to attend. In the past, I simply wouldn’t attend some games, gave to friends, or would have a reseller sell them (gasp). So now I’m the one purchasing from the reseller who bought the tickets from someone like me who is part of a plan with way too many tickets.

    The teams are upset because resellers are making a profit. They want to make that profit, yet they’re causing the problem by pricing their fans out of the park. It sounds ass-backwards, and it is, but the teams created this problem by creating all these ticket packages, and then jacking up the prices.

  • KeithK

    I understand the appeal to some folks. But I hope the Yankees always offer the option of real tickets. I keep the ticket stub for every game I go to as a souvenir and have collected hundreds since I started doing it in the 80s. A printed ticket is just not the same. A digital ticket is nothing.

    • Matt DiBari

      I staple all my tickets into my scorecard

    • Billion$Bullpen

      KeithK I do the same EXACT thing. I have boxes and bags of tickets I keep all of them and love them except I have not kept all of these crap full page print out tickets I have and some of them are for some of the best games I have gone to.

      Any chance you are in fact Kool Keith? You know THE Kool Keith from the Boogie Down BX?

  • Brian S.

    Boston sucks.


    So what happens when the season ticket holder loses his wallet the day of the game? No entry to the game that night? Good strategy. Let’s get it to where the season ticket holders are attending every single game.

  • Matt :: Sec110

    Here’s another problem, the entire group needs to enter at the same time. Not necessarily a problem per say, but say a few people are going in early for whatever reason…just a thought.

    I think if airlines can scan the bar code on your phone for a boarding pass, they should be able to do the same for a ticket to a sporting event. Either way, I think it’s a cool movement to a new technology.

    I do kind of like to have the physical ticket for a keep sake though, so there’s always that…

  • Paco Dooley

    Scalpers are, by definition, a negative to the teams and the fans. The teams see all this money being paid for tickets, but they get none of that extra revenue (and it presumably also depresses the amount that fans have left to spend at the game and on tickets to future games). Fans pay above what the team is willing to accept as the cost for tickets.

    Personally, I really hope the Yankees adopt this policy and allow season ticket holders to open their extra game tickets up for resale through the team (either at cost or at something like a 10% inflated price). This is how the 2012 Olympics tickets are being handled in the UK – you can submit extra tickets back to the ticket system and if they sell you get a refund (but no bonus).

  • Paco Dooley

    Meant to also say, I don’t understand there being two sides to this issue. The post says

    “On the one hand, this move adds a level of convenience to purchasing tickets. On the other, it may skirt scalping and resale laws by limiting what one who purchases a ticket is allowed to do with the ticket. ”

    Aren’t those both positives? I don’t see them as being opposing points…

    • Plank

      How is not being able to give tickets to friends a positive?

      • Paco Dooley

        Firstly, you can lend your friend the card for the day and they can get into the game, so that is not an absolute restriction. Secondly, I see the positive side as being so clearly in excess of the negatives that I don’t see ‘giving friends’ tickets as being something that outweighs the effects this will have on scalping.

        • Plank

          Do you see your friends every day? I don’t. How would I get my credit card to them?

          Just mail your credit card to your friend and he’ll get it back to you when he gets around to it. What could go wrong?

          But, let me just cut you off. You clearly feel very passionately about this and I don’t really care. I was just showing how your original post may have been (was) wrong. You aren’t going to change your mind and I’m assuming from the tone of your posts you have a huge vendetta against the aftermarket tickets. Fly free. I have no beef with you. I just disagree.

          • Joe Pawlikowski

            There’s also this: “Scalpers are, by definition, a negative to the teams and the fans.” This is a bullshit statement with no evidence. How many fans used secondary markets to get into games cheaply last year? Didn’t the Yankees use the secondary markets to alter their own pricing? Seems to me the dynamic pricing of the secondary market helps both entities in many ways.

            I also wonder what happened to owning the things we buy, but that’s a completely different topic.

            • thenamestsam

              Yeah. To me, the secondary market is a huge positive. It doesn’t always mean that the tickets are more expensive, it just means that they’re more accurately priced. I don’t like to pick games way in advance, but sometimes I still want to go see them play the Red Sox, tickets which are unavailable on the primary market at that point. I’m willing to pay extra for the convenience of being able to choose at the last minute to attend those games. I also like that bad games have cheap tickets. Makes it MORE affordable to go to games if you don’t care which ones.

              • Paco Dooley

                But tickets would be available in the primary market since those extra tickets would be resubmitted for resale. So if you want to see the Red Sox and some original ticket buyers do not, then they would return the tickets for resale at face value.

                They could easily have a system where you resubmit those tickets and designate that you are willing to accept less than face value, so you are basically saying you will take X instead of losing the value altogether.

                By economically speaking, scalpers remove value from the exchange between fans and owners. They are a cost – they make a large profit. So the idea is to remove that dead weight in the system and find a solution that allows that money to either be kept my fans or made by teams (preferably through fans buying more tickets and food or merchandise).

                You would have to argue that they (scalpers) provide a valuable service that cannot be replaced by an alternative system that removes their profit. Everyone is simply complaining about the details that could be addressed in an optimal system, not defending the role of the scalper per se.

  • SM

    Here in the UK (for football matches, not baseball ;)), many clubs require you to buy “Membership” cards for around £10, these you just swipe at the entrance.

    • Bavarian Yankee

      it’s pretty similar here in Germany. Most clubs give you a card (looks like a credit card) if you’re a season ticket holder. Even a local 6th division team offers those, that’s pretty cool.

  • Monterowasdinero

    Seems like they could have an added charge to a ticket for meeting and getting a particular player’s autograph or photo. Say the seat cost 50 but for an extra $50-100 for that particular game you could get a pic/autograph with Tex 2 hours before the game. Another source of revenue for our cash starved team! They could limit it to 100 tickets or so but it would be a nice chunk of change and a nice thing to do for the fans.

  • Greg

    Somebody help me out, I have a dumb question; if you use the digital ticketing and swipe your CC to get into the game, what, if any, proof do you have of where your seats are? I would know what seats I had after buying the tickets, but what proof do they give me at the game, in the event someone is in my seats?

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      It appears the Sox are doing it for general admission, which seems like the only place where it would work.

      • Justin

        Well, on the airlines, the scannable ticket says 24A under the barcode or what have you. In large print. So it can be done. And I do love it for flying.

        • Joe Pawlikowski

          But we’re addressing the issue of storing the ticket on a credit card. There is no physical product, as far as we’re discussing it.

      • Kevin

        It could be done for all tickets. Many concerts in NJ are paperless tickets where you must bring the credit card to the venue for entrance. Bruce Springsteen is doing this right now. In NY this is an option, you can go paperless or hard ticket depending on your preference.

    • FanFreedomProject

      Greg, in many instances when venues use paperless ticketing, the person at the gate will print you out a receipt that includes your seating location.

  • Kevin

    Doing this would be bad for fans. The secondary market makes tickets to most games more affordable. Yes, some Red Sox games, opening day, old timers day and playoffs are very expensive. However the majority of games can be bought on stubhub for 50% off the face value.

    If the Yankees or any other team decided to use the digital ticket method for all games the cost of ticket will only increase. This is a bad thing.

  • Favrest

    A great way to stop secondary ticket sellers from buying up all of the cheap seats: hit them over the heads with a baseball bat until they are no longer moving.

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      You’re going to need to change the link in your name. Seriously.

  • Monterowasdinero

    Best ticket value is to see the Yanks on the road. Buy cheapies and move down. Ushers are much more friendly elsewhere. Digital or not.

  • Steve (different one)

    What happens when you no longer have the credit card you used to buy the tickets? It’s not uncommon for your cc company to send you a new card because there were a few suspicious charges made.

  • erik

    call me old fashioned but i love having my stubs and am bummed when I end up with print at home tickets. I have full albums of concert and sporting event tickets that are great memories, especially when I find somethign written on the back like “A-Rod Walk-Off Grand Slam Game” that brings even more memories back. I agree that digital tickets are great for reasons mentioned in this story, but I for one will not be using them when I have a choice.